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Winnipeg violinist, composer River Sawchyn makes CBC Music’s classical 30 under 30 list

It’s a beloved summer tradition here at CBC Music, marking its 10th anniversary this year: our classical “30 under 30” list, celebrating the accomplishments of Canada’s hottest young classical musicians.

They’re highly skilled, creative, disciplined, determined to make their mark in the world of classical music — and we think they’re amazing.

Scroll down to meet this year’s inductees into our classical “30 under 30” family, from oldest to youngest. And if there’s a rising classical music star you’d like us to know about, tell us about them in the comments, below, or on X, formerly known as Twitter, via @CBCMusic using the hashtag #CBC30under30.

Eric Abramovitz, clarinettist and saxophonist

Age: 29
From: Toronto via Montreal

“My mother played keyboard in a Klezmer band,” recalls Eric Abramovitz. “When my dad took me and my three siblings to see one of their shows for the first time, I instantly fell in love with the clarinet and became obsessed.” That obsession has led Abramovitz to the principal clarinet chair of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which he has occupied since 2021. In February, they performed at Carnegie Hall (“the holy grail of concert halls,” he says) and while in New York, Abramovitz gave a masterclass at the Manhattan School of Music. In October, he’ll step in front of the TSO to play Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto — “my all-time favourite.” Not bad for a guy who was kicked out of his high school music program. (“I was something of a rebel back in the day,” he concedes.)

Abramovitz’s clarinet hero is Martin Fröst. “[It’s] as if the clarinet had no technical or musical limitations in his hands,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, he will always be the GOAT.” Abramovitz’s use of sports terminology is no coincidence: he says his dream is to “sign a lifelong contract to play the national anthem at Montreal Canadiens games so I could attend every game for free.” A year ago, he fulfilled another dream. “It was a scorching August day in the Old Port in Montreal, and my wife, Iris, and I finally tied the knot after postponing the wedding for two years due to the pandemic.” We invited Abramovitz to Enoch Turner Schoolhouse in Toronto to play a Bach transcription:

Eric Abramovitz plays Courante from Bach’s Partita No. 1, BWV 1002 | Classical 30 under 30

6 days ago

Duration 3:53

Eric Abramovitz performs J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 1, BWV 1002, II. Courante. Recorded on June 27, 2023, at Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. Learn more about this year’s classical “30 under 30” musicians at

Thea Humphries, hornist

Age: 29
From: Ottawa

Juilliard and Eastman alum Thea Humphries recently wrapped up her four-year tenure as a fellow at the New World Symphony in Miami. Their final concert was a collaboration with Miami City Ballet, conducted by the NWS’s music director laureate, Michael Tilson Thomas. “I was really happy to work with him one more time after so many of my most memorable concerts there have been under his direction,” she enthuses. Humphries also had the distinction of winning this year’s NWS fantasy football league. (“I was also runner-up for our March Madness bracket,” she boasts.)

She loves the “beautiful warm sound, and really lovely horn lines” in Brahms symphonies, and (like all good musicians) knows there’s always work to do. “Some of the most beautiful phrases in horn literature are the softest ones,” she notes, “so, expanding the limits of my ability to play super softly is always something I’m striving to do better.” Another preoccupation for Humphries is “concerts that consider audiences first,” and to that end, she recently launched AudienSync, a website that helps musicians engage with their audiences. She was named one of the 2022 Knight Arts Champions in recognition of this initiative.

Like Abramovitz, above, Humphries recently got married. She and her husband, L.A. Phil trombonist Paul Radke, bonded not only over music, but also beer and board games. “My favourite things to do in a new city are to walk and explore the craft beer scene. I especially love a good sour,” she says. “My husband and I recently discovered Dots pretzels, which pair excellently with our favourite board game, Wingspan.”

Thea Humphries holds her French horn.
‘Music builds community.’ — Thea Humphries (Tamara Benavente)

Andrew Adridge, baritone, stage director and arts administrator

Age: 28
From: Scarborough, Ont.

Classical music presents myriad career opportunities and lately, baritone Andrew Adridge has been making his mark offstage. He’s the newly appointed executive director of the Toronto Consort, a prominent early music collective. Last fall, he got his first contract with the Canadian Opera Company as assistant director for its production of Bizet’s Carmen. He returned to the company in April as assistant director for Verdi’s Macbeth. “As a young singer with a sort of dramatic voice, I always thought of Verdi as that motivator to keep going,” he reflects. “It’s the music they tell you you’ll sing eventually if you stick it out, so I’ve always had a soft spot for his work.”

He also has a soft spot for the cello. “The Elgar Cello Concerto is one of the most spectacular pieces of music ever composed. Wouldn’t it be a dream to be able to play that?” Outside classical music, Adridge says Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly changed his life (“an integral part of my awakening as a Black man”) and admires jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant “because she is so unabashedly, unapologetically her.” In October, he’ll do some singing of his own, performing in Wound Turned to Light, a recital of new songs by James Rolfe, presented by Confluence Concerts.

Yet another newlywed (“Marie is amazing,” he beams, “the right person to have by my side”), Adridge has recently become a suburbanite and revels in the lifestyle. “Taking care of the lawn, barbecuing in all seasons, golfing whenever possible — this is my life now and I accept it with open arms!”

A picture of Andrew Adridge, baritone, stage director and arts administrator.
‘God makes a way, it may not be clear now but it’s clear to him, so trust in it.’ — Andrew Adridge (Taylor Long)

Florence Rousseau, hornist

Age: 28
From: Montreal

Meet Florence Rousseau, the newly appointed third hornist of l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. “It seemed like such an impossibility to get a spot like that, even if it’s what I’ve been working toward for ages,” she marvels. “I’ve been having a blast. I love my colleagues and I love playing third horn. I feel so lucky!” She’s looking forward to playing Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony in the coming season — “the third horn parts are so much fun.” But at the end of the day, one composer prevails: “Mozart. It’s always Mozart, and will always be Mozart,” she insists. “Sometimes I fool myself into thinking it’s Strauss or Mahler or Prokofiev, but that never lasts long. Nobody writes happiness like Mozart does.”

Speaking of happiness, she and her partner (“a huge nerd”) play a lot of board games and enjoy nothing more than snuggling up (“with a cat on each of our laps”) to watch the six-part BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. “I discovered it during a big Jane Austen phase recently and need to rewatch it regularly.” Goldfish are never out of reach. (“The snack that smiles back.”)

Earlier this summer, Rousseau played with the Canadian National Brass Project for a couple of concerts — “fun to play alongside other brass players I’ve looked up to while I was studying,” she notes. And one day she’d love to gather her friends together to play the chamber version of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. “We wouldn’t even need to perform it, just read it together for fun.” None of this would be possible had Rousseau’s mother not urged her to study music at CEGEP: “At least try, or you might regret it when you’re my age.” Mission accomplished, mom!

Florence Rousseau, 3rd hornist of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, poses with her instrument.
‘What’s wrong with knowing what you know now and not knowing what you don’t know until later?’ asks Florence Rousseau, quoting Winnie the Pooh. (Stéphane Beaulac)

Sarah Pollard, flutist

Age: 28
From: Sunderland, Ont.

Sarah Pollard is the recently appointed assistant principal flutist with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. She takes over the position from her friend and former roommate during their McGill University days, Stephanie Morin. In fact, the past year has been a whirlwind for Pollard, who, upon completing an artist diploma in 2022 at the Glenn Gould School in Toronto, held positions with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra — “one of the best and most rewarding experiences of my life so far” — before landing the Edmonton gig.

Pollard singles out Jeanne Baxtresser as an important inspiration. “She taught several of my own teachers, so I have always felt like her ‘grand-student,’ in a way,” she explains. “Her book Orchestral Excerpts for Flute is like a bible within the flute community [and] reminds me to always approach audition excerpts as beautiful music rather than technical, skill-testing selections.” She also credits her grandfather for his unwavering support, driving her to her weekly flute lessons. “When he’d pick me up, he’d walk past my bedroom window and gently tap on it with a warm smile to let me know he had arrived,” she recalls with fondness. “I looked forward to our commute together more than anything else in the week.”

A self-described Type A personality, Pollard enjoys yoga and pilates workouts and has a big appetite. “I love food — a lot,” she salivates. Circular breathing is a long-range goal (“not necessary for most orchestral or solo repertoire, but it would be a very cool party trick!”) and so is “convincing the Ontario government to prioritize and better fund music education and band programs in public schools.”

Sarah Pollard, the newly appointed assistant principal flutist of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, poses with her instrument.
‘What’s meant to be will always find a way.’ — Sarah Pollard (Rama Odi)

Marie-Claire Cardinal, conductor and violinist

Age: 28
From: Quebec City

In March, Marie-Claire Cardinal was appointed resident assistant conductor with l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec, where she’ll work alongside music director Clemens Schuldt for the 2023-24 season. She’s the first woman to hold the position. “The day of the audition, after all the rounds were done, the committee came to the room I was waiting in, and Clemens Schuldt announced to me with a big smile, ‘You won the job!'” Among her duties will be conducting the OSQ’s family concert on Nov. 12.

Also in March, Cardinal gave the inaugural concert with her own chamber orchestra, Chrysalide, to a packed house. In June, she was assistant conductor to Yannick Nézet-Séguin for the final concerts of l’Orchestre Métropolitain’s season. “He knows how to bring the music out of the score with truth and authenticity,” she says, pointing out that these concerts coincided with her 28th birthday (a very Gemini thing to do).

It all began during her childhood, when Cardinal’s father gave her a CD of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. “I grew up listening to it and maybe that is part of why I am a musician today,” she muses. Offstage, Cardinal is involved in sports. “Hockey is one of my favourites and I was really happy to join a team this year.” She also loves baking. “If I could sleep only six hours per night, I feel like I could do all the other things I don’t have time to do!”

In March, Marie-Claire Cardinal was appointed resident assistant conductor with l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec.
‘Life is an adventure!’ — Marie-Claire Cardinal (Julie Genest)

Simon Farintosh, guitarist

Age: 27
From: Toronto via British Columbia

“Living in the concrete jungles of Toronto makes me miss the ocean and forests of B.C. even more,” ponders Simon Farintosh, who’s nevertheless making the most of his adopted city. He’s working toward his doctorate at U of T, while building a robust private teaching studio, whose students gave their first recital in the spring. 

This fall, Farintosh will release his debut album, Noctuary, a collection of original music for eight-string guitar. He says Pat Metheny’s One Quiet Night was a significant inspiration: “There’s a sense of desolation and stillness that permeates Metheny’s album, which reminds me of an early morning drive when the roads are empty and nobody else is awake yet.” Farintosh will be playing shows throughout Ontario and Quebec to promote the release, during which audiences are sure to hear his piece Distant Light, which won the 2022 Ottawa Guitar Society Composition Competition.

Farintosh divides his time between the practice room and the gym, building a big appetite. This may explain why he compares himself to a seagull — “I am always eating people’s leftover food,” he admits. And despite his guitar fixation, he’s also enamoured of Russian piano music (“there’s a certain gravitas that just isn’t present in the guitar repertoire”) and the improvisations of Nils Frahm (“watching him perform at Massey Hall earlier this year was a transformative experience”). Farintosh dreams of composing and recording a film soundtrack. “Neil Young improvised most of the soundtrack to Dead Man on his guitar while watching the movie,” he notes. “I would love to do something similar one day.”

Simon Farintosh, who'll release his debut album in fall 2023, poses outdoors with his instrument.
‘Enjoy the process.’ — Simon Farintosh (Kemi Lo)

Alex Hetherington, mezzo-soprano

Age: 26
From: Toronto

In November, Alex Hetherington received an email from composer Ian Cusson asking if she could travel to Victoria to sing his new cycle, Songs from the House of Death, with the Victoria Symphony — in three days’ time. “Of course, I said yes,” she recalls. (She’s a Virgo, in case there was any doubt.) “It was a whirlwind learning the piece, but an immense privilege, as both the music and the poetry are breathtakingly beautiful.”

A highlight of Hetherington’s first year as a member of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio was performing the role of Mercédès in Bizet’s Carmen. “It was absolutely surreal to sing with the phenomenal orchestra at the Four Seasons Centre,” she beams. In the coming season, she’ll be singing roles in Cherubini’s Medea and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, while understudying Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Last March, Hetherington performed with the Gryphon Trio (“huge role models for me”) to help celebrate their 30th anniversary; on July 1, she sang music by Ana Sokolovic with the NAC Orchestra. She’ll return to the NAC in September to premiere new orchestral arrangements of songs by Clara Schumann. In her down time, Hetherington listens to jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant while sipping Moscow mules. (“I tried being a scotch person because I thought it would be a cool personality trait, but unfortunately, I found it quite vile,” she admits.) We predict it won’t be long until she’s offered one of her Straussian dream roles: Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier or the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos.

Mezzo-soprano Alex Hetherington has completed her 1st year of residency at the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio.
‘Du holde Kunst, ich danke dir’ (Blessed art, I thank you),’ says Alex Hetherington, quoting Schubert’s ‘An die Musik.’ (Gaetz Photography)

Emmanuel Jacob Lacopo, guitarist

Age: 26
From: Montreal

You may not have heard of composer Julius Eastman, but Emmanuel Jacob Lacopo and his fiancée, recording engineer Amelya Hempstead, are doing their part to change that. In 2022, they received the Eleanor Stubley Recording Prize, enabling them to make an album of Eastman’s music, reimagined for guitar. “We thought it was really important to uplift Eastman, who was a gay, Black composer in America during a time where you couldn’t openly be that — especially in a field like classical music.” They released Eastman in May, and it needs to be heard to be believed. Lacopo will present the album at Dundas Square in Toronto on Sept. 2, part of Intersection Festival’s marathon concert.

Lacopo is partway through his doctorate at McGill’s Schulich School of Music, having recently passed his comprehensive exams (“a gruelling process,” he concedes). He’s currently writing his dissertation and preparing for his final lecture-recital in April 2024. His research focuses on the attribution of musical value: “Who’s been left out of the conversation? What repertoire have we ignored and why? These are the questions I’m attempting to answer,” he explains.

In April, Lacopo played the Boccherini Quintet with Ensemble Urbain (“a giant party”), and he insists on giving credit where it’s due: to composer Morton Feldman (“the cross-pollination of his artistic interests”); John Coltrane (“pure dedication to the craft”); his teacher, Steve Cowan (“helped me surpass a lot of obstacles on my instrument”); his father (“he’s always given me the space to be myself”) and his mother (“singing along to Italian songs from her youth all day long”). It takes a village.

Montreal guitarist Emmanuel Jacob Lacopo released his debut album, Eastman, in 2023.
‘I’d like to point out to people the divine in a musical language that transcends words. I want to speak to their souls,’ says Emmanuel Jacob Lacopo, quoting John Coltrane. (Anthony Jamie Bucciacchio)

Zachary Rioux, tenor

Age: 26
From: Grand Falls, N.B.

Zachary Rioux was “over the moon” upon learning that he would be joining the opera studio of the Bayerische Staatsoper in the 2023-24 season. “I’m also excited for all of the currywurst I’m going to eat, and watching my favourite soccer team, Bayern Munich,” he beams. Before departing for Germany, Rioux is spending his second summer at the Glimmerglass Festival in New York State, singing Parpignol and covering Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème. “The tenor roles in most of his operas fit my voice like a glove,” he says. “Whenever I perform a Puccini opera, the melodies are stuck in my head for weeks because it’s some of the most beautiful music ever created.”

Rioux received a talent development award at last summer’s Neue Stimmen Competition, which enabled him to visit Mascarade Opera Studio in Florence for a week of training and auditions. He also attended the Internationale Meistersinger Akademie in Bavaria, where he was coached by Canadian soprano Edith Wiens and the Bayerische Staatsoper’s Tobias Truniger. For the past year, Rioux has been a resident artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. In September, he’ll make his Beethovenfest Bonn debut as the tenor soloist for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.

Fun facts about Rioux: he got his black belt in kung fu at the age of 14, and his favourite singer is Franco Corelli (“electrifying”). Roll up his sleeve and you’ll see two lyrics tattooed on his forearm: “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “E non ho amato mai tanto la vita!” the final line from Mario’s aria “E Lucevan le stelle” from Puccini’s Tosca.

Zachary Rioux will be joining the opera studio of the Bayerische Staatsoper in the 2023-24 season.
‘It’s impossible to be perfect. The only thing you can do is work to try and improve a little bit every day.’ — Zachary Rioux (Besim Mazhiqi)

Sami Anguaya, composer

Age: 25
From: Toronto via Ottawa

“I remember listening to [Steve Reich’s] 2×5, a super rhythmic chamber piece for electric guitars, bass, and drum kits, and being blown away that something like that could exist and be accepted in classical music spaces,” recalls Sami Anguaya. Reich’s daring has fuelled his own ambitions: “To write, produce and record a sort of genre-mashup album that’s a love letter to everything I’m drawn to in music,” he muses. “It would have some indie-pop tracks, rhythmic-minimalist instrumental works [and] lyrical and harmonious choral music — think Jacob Collier’s Djesse, but probably just one album instead of four!”

Thanks to the $25,000 Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award from the University of Toronto, where he completed a master’s in composition, Anguaya is a big step closer to that goal. His choral piece “Speak to Us of Joy” was released on the Exultate Chamber Singers’ latest album (listen here). The U of T Wind Ensemble, the Modern Sound Collective and the Concreamus Chamber Choir have also recently performed his music.

Anguaya, who’s of Kichwa heritage, was invited to give a presentation on his music at the 2022 Indigenous Classical Music Gathering at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. And for the past year, he’s been Tapestry Opera’s advancement associate. “I’ve been able to support incredible equity-based projects and learn about what goes into producing new works in Canada,” he says. Looking for Anguaya? You’re apt to find him at Only Café near Donlands station in Toronto. “It’s just an unpretentious café with a real community atmosphere and nice big tables to work at.”

In 2022, Sami Anguaya won the $25K Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award from the University of Toronto.
‘Know nothing, entertain possibilities,’ says Sami Anguaya, quoting his grandfather. (Olivya Leblanc/Hazelwood & Co.)

Thomas Roy-Rochette, bassoonist

Age: 25
From: Quebec City

In May, Thomas Roy-Rochette performed a movement from Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B-flat Major with l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec — a solo engagement resulting from winning the $2,500 OSQ Foundation Prize last November. Also last November, he won the $1,500 first prize in the 2022 Pentaèdre-Youkali Competition for wind instruments. “It was a lot of fun to play solo repertoire in front of a public again, since I play a lot in orchestras these days,” he says. Speaking of which, Roy-Rochette performed with the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra for its Romeo and Juliet production in June, and has since won that orchestra’s second bassoonist position. He’s also a member of this summer’s National Youth Orchestra of Canada, where he’s the proud recipient of the $15,000 Michael Measures Second Prize, awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts. His dream — which doesn’t seem so far-fetched, given all his accolades — is to compose, direct and conduct an opera some day.

It all started with his high-school band teacher, André Garneau. “He told me to practise my scales every day — and a lot,” he recalls. These days, Roy-Rochette’s spare time is spent unicycling, watching the manga series Naruto and (of course!) making reeds. “It’s very time-consuming and every piece of cane is different,” he grumbles. “It’s like trying to carve a Stradivarius out of a carrot every other day.” For a pick-me-up, he listens to recordings of Luciano Pavarotti (“So easy, so bright, so light!”), reads novels (Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi is a recent favourite), and runs along the Saint-Charles River — “a productive way to spend time outside and to see some nature,” he says. Catch him if you can.

Bassoonist Thomas Roy-Rochette is the recipient of the 2023 Michael Measures 2nd prize from the Canada Council for the Arts.
‘Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water,’ says Thomas Roy-Rochette, citing the Zen Buddhist saying. (Submitted by Thomas Roy-Rochette)

Serena Reuten, conductor, flutist

Age: 25
From: Vancouver

In 2022, Serena Reuten took part in the NAC Orchestra's Play it Forward mentorship program.
‘The cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek,’ says Serena Reuten, quoting writer Joseph Campbell. (Yujen Tsai)

For Serena Reuten, it all started with a cassette tape of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and Swan Lake suites, which she “listened to repeatedly as a kid.” Fast-forward to today, and she’s halfway through her master’s in orchestral conducting at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where she’s not only assistant conductor of the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, but also involved with OSSIA, a contemporary music organization. Last summer, Reuten worked with Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra as a participant in their “Play it Forward” mentorship program. “Having completed my undergraduate degree in Ottawa, it was very special to work with an orchestra that I’ve admired for a long time,” she reflects. In February, she conducted the Winnipeg Symphony during the 2023 RBC Emerging Conductors Showcase. For two weeks in July, she attended Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s conducting intensive at the Domaine Forget Academy.

Reuten singles out Claudio Abbado for “his dedication to the music, his generosity, and his calm and soft-spoken nature,” adding, “his Mahler symphony recordings with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra are among my favourites for their musical pacing, clarity and sincerity.” Closer to home, she praises Camille Churchfield, her flute prof at Ottawa U, for “opening my eyes to a holistic perspective on learning music,” and Denis Bluteau, her flute prof at l’Université de Montréal, for “teaching me how to be comfortable with performing, how to really enjoy the process, and for being such a source of positivity during COVID.”

Wesley Harrison, tenor

Age: 25
From: Windsor, Ont.

Last October, Wesley Harrison won third prize in the Canadian Opera Company’s Centre Stage Competition, and has been invited to join the COC Ensemble Studio this fall. He’ll be singing roles in Beethoven’s Fidelio, Puccini’s La bohème, and covering Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Ernesto in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. “I truly cannot count how many times I’ve squealed in my apartment with excitement over it,” he admits. As he continues his professional development there, he’ll work on refining the relationship between his soft palate and jaw. “When they are sitting in just the right place, it feels like the voice is just spilling out with very little work,” he explains. “I am continuing to work on my consistency in finding this lovely spot within the context of every note and vowel I sing.”

After completing his master’s in voice performance at McGill’s Schulich School of Music in 2022, Harrison was engaged to cover various roles with l’Opéra de Montréal — “incredibly exciting for me!” Also exciting is rock-climbing (his recent passion), and camping in Algonquin Park. “You have to paddle into your campsite and your neighbours are so far away you truly feel alone and at peace.”

One of the most precious people in Harrison’s life is his friend, harpist Chris Clarke. “Diving into conversations about what it means to be an artist and making music with him is an absolute joy and I use what we’ve learned together in my practices every day,” he says, and no doubt it’s fuelled his aspiration “to sing and aid in the creation of new works that offer more queer and BIPOC stories.”

In October 2022, Wesley Harrison won 3rd prize in the Canadian Opera Company’s Centre Stage Competition.
‘Take time to see the beauty around you, and then you’ll have even more to sing about.’ — Wesley Harrison (Lizzy Cojocaru)

Zhan Hong Xiao, pianist

Age: 24
From: Montreal

In Mandarin, Zhan Hong Xiao’s given name means “eagle deploying its wings,” an apt metaphor for his career, which is soaring. In June, mere weeks after completing his master’s at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, he won the $5,000 second prize and the $4,000 John Newmark prize at the Prix d’Europe Competition — “a big help in financing my future projects,” he notes. Those projects include his participation at the 2023 Piano Academy Eppan in October, where he’ll play in masterclasses with Janina Fialkowska, Michel Béroff and Andrea Bonatta, meet other gifted pianists and enjoy the scenery in the Italian Alps.

Xiao has an outdoor concert coming up on Sept. 4 at La Fête de la musique de Tremblant (“my first time performing in this kind of setting, which is closer to a pop music festival”). He’ll make his solo debut at Montreal’s Place des arts in March 2024 with the Pro Musica concert series. And then in May, under the auspices of Bourgie Hall’s mentorship program, he’ll be the opening act for a recital by Bruce Liu

Xiao’s role model is Charles Richard-Hamelin. “I’ve been following his evolution since 2012, when I listened to his performance in the final of the OSM Competition,” he recalls. “He’s someone from a humble background who didn’t skip any steps and achieved international success through his honest, hard work.” Not surprisingly, Chopin’s music holds special appeal. “When you play Chopin, you feel like a pianist,” he says. “There’s a perfect balance between the heart, the brain and the hands.” Xiao’s dream is to perform the complete piano music of Chopin over the span of a single concert season. Any takers?

In June 2023, Zhan Hong Xiao won the $5K 2nd prize and the $4K John Newmark prize at the Prix d’Europe Competition.
‘Nothing is black or white, there’s a balance to be found in everything.’ — Zhan Hong Xiao (Mathieu Lavoie/Radio-Canada)

Emily Bosenius, violinist

Age: 24
From: Mississauga, Ont.

Emily Bosenius is currently based in London, England, where she’s working toward her master’s at the Royal Academy of Music and evidently living the dream: Last October she played Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis in Gloucester Cathedral, which is where it was premiered. She also travelled to Brussels to play tango music, and to Germany to perform Elgar’s Violin Sonata at Stadthalle Wuppertal — “one of the most visually and acoustically gorgeous halls I have ever been in!” She filled it with the strains of her beautiful 1794 Giovanni Battista Ceruti violin, on loan from her school.

Bosenius credits competitive swimming for her musical discipline. “I specialized in distance swimming, and I really learned endurance and to not give up,” she reflects. “If you swim a 1,500-metre race, you can’t go all out at the start; you have to pace yourself!”

A recent highlight was returning to Canada in April to perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the Oakville Chamber Orchestra and conductor Charles Demuynck — “a dream-come-true moment,” she says. It was a poignant homecoming for Bosenius, who won the senior category of their youth concerto competition only three years ago. She’ll be back in Canada next season to play Korngold’s Violin Concerto with the U of T Symphony Orchestra and the Guelph Symphony Orchestra.

Emily Bosenius studies violin at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England.
‘Approach every note with anticipation and leave every note with regret,’ says Emily Bosenius, quoting Yehudi Menuhin. (Angela Bosenius)

Marion Portelance, cellist

Age: 24
From: Montreal

Moving to London, England, last fall to begin her master’s in cello performance at the Royal College of Music has exceeded Marion Portelance’s wildest dreams. In May, her school chose her to perform as part of a string quartet at King Charles’s coronation concert. “There were 20,000 people there and it was broadcast everywhere in the world by the BBC,” she marvels. “I had never done something on that scale before.” To top it off, she played the King’s former cello. 

In March, Portelance was principal cellist for two concerts with the RCM Symphony Orchestra, guest-conducted by Vasily Petrenko, music director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra —  “an incredibly inspiring character.” She was also chosen to take part in the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s “sit-in scheme” for the 2022-23 season, gaining valuable rehearsal experience in a world-class professional setting. In June, she made her solo debut in the U.K., performing Brahms’s Double Concerto (alongside her violinist friend Lucilla Rose Mariotti) with the Haydn Chamber Orchestra and the Kensington Philharmonic Orchestra.

“I’ve always felt at home on TV and movie sets,” reflects Portelance, whose parents work in the film industry. She was a natural choice to perform in Alicia Keys’s latest video for the Netflix series Bridgerton. To decompress, Portelance strolls through Notting Hill and rewatches the video of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s Moulin Rouge performance at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. (If you know, you know.) This month, you’ll find her at the Domaine Forget in Quebec’s Charlevoix region, playing with Les Violons du Roy as a finalist in their 2023 concerto competition.

 In May 2023, cellist Marion Portelance performed as part of a string quartet at King Charles’s coronation concert.
‘You can only count on yourself, but you cannot make it alone,’ says Marion Portelance, quoting Mario Chenart. (Annie Diotte)

Olive MacPhail, tubist

Age: 23
From: Charlottetown

Fun fact: Olive MacPhail has a tattoo of the planet Jupiter on the back of their neck. “When I was in middle school band, my teacher, Frank Nabuurs, programmed an arrangement of Gustav Holst’s ‘Jupiter’ from The Planets,” they explain. “That was when I started to fall in love with the tuba.” That love affair has since blossomed. MacPhail won first prize (brass) at the 2022 FCMF National Music Festival, and first prize at the University of P.E.I.’s 2023 Dr. Frances Gray Music Performance Competition. In December, they played a section of Edward Gregson’s Tuba Concerto with the UPEI Wind Symphony; in June, they performed at Under the Spire, a music festival held at Saint Mary’s Church in Indian River; and they’re “absolutely pumped” to be spending another summer managing and directing the Confederation Brass Quintet. Next stop for MacPhail: St. John’s, to begin a master’s in pedagogy and performance at Memorial University. “I can’t wait to move from my emerald island to the rock — and hopefully get screeched into becoming an honorary Newfoundlander,” they enthuse.

Doing the 100 days of practice challenge on Instagram was an enriching experience for MacPhail (“I have made incredible strides in my confidence as a player”), but there’s always room for improvement: “I’m still working on the security of my sound with a focused air, ear and lip connection — a work in progress for even the finest brass players.” And that includes one of MacPhail’s idols, Carol Jantsch, the first woman to hold a principal tuba chair in a major U.S. orchestra. “To see a young woman dominating very competitive positions is incredibly inspiring to me as a small-town, nonbinary tuba player.”

Olive MacPhail won 1st prize (brass) at the 2022 FCMF National Music Festival.
‘Creating opportunities for oneself is the way to become an inherently lucky person,’ say Olive MacPhail. ‘Once you create the opportunity, they will seemingly continue to fall into your lap.’ (Zaria White)

Samuel Kerr, percussionist, pianist, composer and conductor

Age: 22
From: Calgary

For Samuel Kerr, empathy is a musician’s best quality: “Being in an ensemble, being a conductor, and being a composer — it’s essential to be tuned into the needs of the people you’re supporting or leading,” he reflects. This summer, as a returning member of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada (and the recipient of an NYOC award of excellence), he was dialled into the needs of his fellow musicians during the NYOC’s 2023 J.P. Bickell ChamberFest at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. “I was lucky enough to play nine incredible pieces, ranging from Reich’s headbanging Sextet, to scratching a record with kebab skewers for five minutes (Raven Chacon’s Round), to a premiere of my own for strings, percussion and piano (Horizons yet Unknown).”

Kerr recently completed an advanced certificate in performance at U of T and composed music for three friends’ recitals. “It was a great way to end five years at that institution,” he says. “I love writing for people I care about!” The feeling is mutual over at the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, with which Kerr used to perform, and whose concerto competition he won in 2018. In April, he took the podium to lead the TSYO through a performance of his own overture, Fast Vibe in a Short Machine. “It was really cool to join together the percussion, composition and conducting parts of my life like that.”

When he’s back home in Alberta, Kerr’s excess energy gets consumed during hikes in the Rockies. “Not to make everything about music, but I like to think that the alpine has been a major influence on my music,” he notes. “I tie much of the programmatic music I write to mountain scenes — the stark calm of a sunrise, the frenzy of an alpine storm.”

Percussionist Samuel Kerr is a recipient of a 2023 award of excellence from the National Youth Orchestra of Canada.
”Sero sed serio’ (‘late but in earnest’),’ says Samuel Kerr, quoting the motto of the Kerr clan. (Jag Gundu/Jag Photography)

Madeline Hall, guitarist and composer

Age: 21
From: London, Ont.

“One thing a lot of people don’t know about me is that I got my start in guitar by playing heavy metal,” reveals Madeline Hall. “If you told 12-year-old me that today I’d be pursuing classical guitar as a career, I would’ve thought you were insane.” Nevertheless, at age 15, Hall made the cogent decision to begin classical guitar lessons with Wilma van Berkel, with whom she studies to this day at Western University. “She has taught me basically everything I know about classical guitar,” Hall reflects. “What’s also inspiring is that she’s had the patience to put up with me for this long.”

As the winner of the 2022 Kiwanis Music Festival of London Rose Bowl, Hall performed Manuel de Ponce’s Concierto del Sur with the London Sinfonia in January. Earlier that month, she won second prize in Western University’s Maritsa Brookes Concerto Competition, and will perform as a soloist with the Western University Symphony Orchestra in the coming concert season as a result. She’s already looking ahead to her graduation recital in March 2024, when she’ll play her own piece for guitar and voice.

Earlier this summer, Hall attended a classical guitar intensive in Maui, Hawaii. She’s currently enrolled in the Aspen Music Festival’s classical guitar program, studying with Juilliard’s Sharon Isbin. “I’m working on playing without tension in my left hand (the fretting hand),” she says. She loves the music of Leo Brouwer (“super fun to study and perform”) and Pat Metheny (“I am a huge fan of jazz and fusion”), and says her dream is to compose and perform a guitar concerto with orchestra. We invited Hall to Toronto’s Enoch Turner Schoolhouse to play music by José Luis Turina:

Madeline Hall – 1st movement from Turina’s Sonata Op. 61 | Classical 30 under 30

6 days ago

Duration 4:05

Madeline Hall performs Joaquín Turina’s Sonata, Op. 61, I. Allegro. Recorded on June 27, 2023, at Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. Learn more about this year’s classical “30 under 30” musicians at

Tiffany Yeung, violinist

Age: 20
From: Richmond Hill, Ont.

As this year’s winner of the $25,000 Michael Measures First Prize, Tiffany Yeung is the soloist in Brahms’ Violin Concerto with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and Sascha Goetzel on their ongoing summer 2023 tour of Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes. It wraps up on Aug. 2 at Koerner Hall in Toronto — a performance that will be recorded for broadcast on CBC Music’s In Concert on Sept. 10. “It really is extra special to me because last summer I was actually considering quitting violin and pursuing something else,” she reveals. “And here I am now, a year later, touring with my all-time favourite piece. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity!” Afterward, she’ll celebrate with a trip to the Dominican Republic with her family. “I cannot wait to sit on the beach, read, swim, and most importantly, eat food all day long.”

It sounds heavenly, but Yeung knows there’s always work to do: “Playing with a straight bow and fourth finger vibrato” are her current nemeses. Those and other skills will serve her well in the “beautiful and gorgeous melodies” of Schubert’s Grand Duo, a current favourite, which Yeung hopes to perform later this year. If she ever tires of the violin, she says she’ll take up the guitar and admits she “would secretly totally switch to cello if it weren’t too late already.”

Yeung enjoys domestic pursuits — embroidery, painting, baking — and adores children (“send me all the baby videos!”). She dreams of having a big family of her own one day. “Five kids sounds perfect.” In classical music terms, a quintet.

Violinist Tiffany Yeung is the recipient of the $25K Michael Measures Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts.
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight,’ says Tiffany Yeung, quoting the Book of Proverbs. (Stuart Lowe)

Hamilton Lau, pianist

Age: 20
From: Burnaby, B.C.

Hamilton Lau got his start on piano at four, thanks to his mother: “She would hurry home from work, then drive me to lessons and sit with me, quietly taking notes so I wouldn’t forget a single thing my teacher said.” Sixteen years later, things couldn’t be going better. Lau made his European solo debut at Fazioli Concert Hall in May as a featured musician in its Winners recital series. This opportunity resulted from his first prize at Vancouver’s 2022 Architecture of Music Competition last September — one in a whole string of successes. In November, he was a semifinalist at the OSM Competition. “I had to learn three new pieces in the span of only four months, which taught me a lot about efficient practice,” he recalls. He won second prize at the 2022 Shean Piano Competition, where playing Liszt’s B Minor Sonata was a highlight. Two months before that, he performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the UBC Symphony Orchestra as the winner of the UBC Concerto Competition.

Vladimir Horowitz’s “ability to make the piano sing” has long inspired Lau, and he says he’s “left speechless” by Beethoven’s life and music. “I revere him especially because of his late works,” he reflects. “To be able to compose such sublime and otherworldly music while suffering from illness and deafness — it’s very moving to listen to or play these works.” Lau will do just that in January, when he’ll perform Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto in the Robert and Ellen Silverman Piano Concerto Competition at UBC. Until then, he’ll read sci-fi novels, take walks on the Seawall in Stanley Park and work on the ever-elusive “super-fast finger 4-5 trills.”

In May 2023, Hamilton Lau made his European solo debut at Fazioli Concert Hall in Italy.
‘Wonder is the beginning of wisdom,’ says Hamilton Lau, quoting Socrates. (Michelle Koebke/Diamond’s Edge Photography)

River Sawchyn, violinist and composer

Age: 20
From: Winnipeg

What do classical music students do during their summer holidays? Keep studying, naturally, but it’s not as gruelling as it sounds. Last summer, River Sawchyn “had an incredible time learning, making new friends, playing great music, and being inspired” at the Domaine Forget Music Academy. This summer, he sought a similar experience at Colorado College Summer Music Festival (“a very intense and high-level program”) and the Orford Music Academy, where he spent time working with violinist Callum Smart and Collectif9. He’s also returning to teach at Cadenza Music Camp in Winkler, Man. “Last summer, I was brought on as the fiddle instructor and had an absolutely wonderful time teaching group fiddle classes to kids,” he recalls. “It taught me a lot about teaching and what music can do for kids and a community.”

During the school year, Sawchyn studies violin at the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., where he and two classmates put on a student composition recital in April. “Our composition teacher was away on sabbatical, but we still wanted to put on our usual student composers concert so we self-organized and performed a concert of new works,” he explains. “It was completely student-led and was a ton of work, but that made it all the more worth it.” So worth it, in fact, that he and his classmate, double bassist Moa Glimberg, followed it up with their debut EP, Cycles & Stars, released earlier this year.

Sawchyn groupies, be advised: “My grandma is my biggest fan ever,” he cautions. “She would definitely fight anyone who says otherwise.”

Winnipeg native River Sawchyn studies violin at the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.
‘All of us, at the end of the day, teach ourselves how to play,’ says River Sawchyn, quoting Rodney Friend, ex-concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. (Stephen Sawchyn)

Benjamin Seah, violinist

Age: 19
From: Montreal

Benjamin Seah won the $8,000 first prize and the $1,000 prize for the best performance of the test piece at the 2023 Shean Strings Competition in Edmonton.
‘To achieve great things, 2 things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time,’ says Benjamin Seah, quoting Leonard Bernstein. (Tam Lan Truong)

In May, Benjamin Seah won the $8,000 first prize and the $1,000 prize for the best performance of the test piece at the 2023 Shean Strings Competition in Edmonton. As a result, he gets to perform as a soloist with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in the coming season — impressive for a self-described “lazy introvert” who’d “ideally spend all day lying in bed” if he could. Seah credits William van der Sloot, his violin teacher at the Oberlin Conservatory since 2021, with “always being there to help me prepare for everything and believing in me the whole way.”

When not practising (or sleeping), Seah enjoys cooking with friends at his Oberlin dorm. “We’ve set off the smoke alarm a few too many times, but I still enjoy it,” he admits. Back home in Montreal, he loves going to nearby Mount Royal “for the peacefulness and the view.”

Seah singles out violinist Augustin Hadelich as his biggest inspiration. “There are few violinists who have his technical ability,” he reflects. “His playing is also so musical: he can make a showpiece, which the average violinist would struggle with, sound absolutely beautiful.” Seah will aim to emulate those qualities in September, when he travels to China as a semifinalist in the Qingdao International Violin Competition, where he’ll play Prok 2 when (not if) he reaches the final. In the meantime, he’s performing at the Orford Music Festival and hitting the road for concerts at summer music festivals in small towns across Quebec.

Hriday Buddhdev, sarod and tabla player

Age: 18
From: Coquitlam, B.C.

For Hriday Buddhdev, a big development of the past year was undertaking studies with tabla master Swapan Chaudhuri at the Ali Akbar College of Music in California. “His perspectives have prompted me to expand my own sense of rhythmic and melodic esthetics and experiment with my sound on both of my instruments,” he says. On Aug. 6, Buddhdev will make his debut in San Francisco, playing sarod with Rohan Upamaka on tabla at the Saraswati School of Music. “The concert promises to be a quaint musical soirée, filled with aficionados of Indian classical music, so I am eager to share my music with an enthusiastic and learned audience.” In January, he’ll travel to Ahmedabad, India, to attend the Saptak Festival of Music as a student and listener. “Visiting my motherland to engage with Indian classical music always reminds me of the vital link that music has been with my heritage,” he reflects. “I hope to bring some of this energy and knowledge back to Vancouver, to continue raising the bar for artistic and cultural excellence in Canada.”

Parallel to his achievements in music, Buddhdev excels in the field of web development. He’s partway through a computer science degree at UBC and recently did his first internship with a Vancouver-based workforce management software company. He also spends a lot of time at the pool (“swimming has taught me to not compare my performance with others”), watching cricket with his father (“our team, Gujarat Titans, lost to Chennai Super Kings in the final”) and hopes to collaborate someday with Western string players for a “meaningful union of two distinct, but complementary musical tones.” Fans in Vancouver can catch him at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in May 2024, performing on tabla with acclaimed sitar player Josh Feinberg.

Vancouver's Hriday Buddhdev plays sarod and tabla.
‘When you think you’ve listened enough, listen closer,’ says Hriday Buddhdev, quoting Alam Khan. (Artona Group)

Elijah Orlenko, pianist

Age: 19
From: Toronto via Vancouver

For Elijah Orlenko, Martha Argerich is the GOAT. “There’s an incredible efficiency to the way she plays,” he says. “There’s a constant sense of curvature and motion to her phrasing that I analyze in order to try and recreate certain aspects of that.” It seems to be working: Orlenko won second prize at the Bader and Overton National Piano Competition in May. In July, he got to perform his three favourite Études by Franz Liszt at the Toronto Summer Music Festival.

“I’m currently working on Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which has a lot of acrobatics,” he says. “With every new piece, there are parts that seem insurmountable, but this feeling quickly disappears as I take a nap after practising.” Why so sleepy? His main pastime provides a clue: “I love swinging, cleaning and pressing my two kettlebells,” he enthuses. “I’ve found a training method that doesn’t endanger my hands for piano.”

For six years, Orlenko has been a full scholarship student at the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists in the studio of Michael Berkovsky. This fall, he’s heading to his “dream school,” the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, to begin his bachelor of music. He’s been invited to play Stravinsky’s Trois Mouvements de Petrouchka at Pianofest in Barrie, Ont., next May. In the meantime, he’ll unwind by throwing his Aerobie Pro flying ring, and start working toward his goal of competing at the 19th International Chopin Piano Competition in 2025 and the 2027 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Elijah Orlenko won 2nd prize at the 2023 Bader and Overton National Piano Competition.
‘The present is an infinitely narrow snippet of time and that’s where I want to be.’ — Elijah Orlenko (Volodymyr Orlenko)

Justin Saulnier, violinist

Age: 18
From: Ottawa

In May 2023, violinist Justin Saulnier won 1st prize in the Oakville Chamber Orchestra’s youth concerto competition.
‘Sometimes you win, always you learn.’ — Justin Saulnier (Anastasia Krachkovskaya)

Things couldn’t be going much better for Justin Saulnier, who studies violin performance with Andrew Wan at McGill’s Schulich School of Music. In May, he won first prize in the Oakville Chamber Orchestra’s youth concerto competition, and in February, he took top prize in McGill’s concerto competition, securing concerto performances for himself with both institutions in the coming concert season. Back in his hometown, Saulnier was announced as the 2023 recipient of the $7,000 NAC Orchestra Bursary. The secret to his recent success? “James Ehnes’s Elgar Violin Concerto album inspired me to do honest and hard work this past year,” Saulnier confides. “Ehnes is the only violinist who could play this as cleanly and as musically as he does, and the album inspired me to strive for a balance between the two.”

Speaking of balance, Saulnier’s life offstage involves a lot of chess. “I got into it during the pandemic, and I’m secretly keeping it up when I have free time,” he says. “Hitting a chess rating of 2000 Elo is certainly on my bucket list.” He also plays ultimate Frisbee and does calisthenics.

In a parallel universe, Saulnier plays the French horn. “Its lush and beautiful melodies as well as its brilliant fanfares in orchestral music are to die for!” But when it comes to the violin, he says Augustin Hadelich is a role model. “Even though he has an established career, I admire his work ethic and drive to make his next performance more flawless and musically engaging than the previous one,” he reflects. “I also admire his dedication to sharing his knowledge — his Ask Augustin videos really kept me going during the pandemic.”

Ashley Tsai, violinist

Age: 18
From: Calgary

Ashley Tsai is a recent graduate of the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where she studied with Henry Gronnier as a Kohl Scholar and was concertmaster of the Colburn Academy Virtuosi. Last December, she won the school’s concerto competition and got to play Sarasate’s Navarra in the winners’ concert, alongside one of her friends, fellow violinist Dániel Hodos. “A bittersweet ending,” she says, made easier by the prospect of post-graduation visits to Taiwan, Italy and Germany.

Last summer, Tsai attended the Casalmaggiore International Music Festival in Italy, where she performed Tchaikovsky’s string sextet Souvenir de Florence. “We only had four days to put everything together — six strangers from different parts of the world, speaking different languages, meeting in a practice room every day to make it sound decent,” she recalls. “One of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences I’ve had.” Tsai credits her longtime violin teacher in Calgary, Kathryn Corvino, with imparting “the importance of staying strong and how to keep going when things don’t go according to plan — an important life skill that has proved useful time and time again.”

Rachel Podger’s recording of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin opened Tsai’s eyes to baroque tuning and style. “This album gave a whole new perspective that we don’t often hear in modern-day playing.” In fact, Tsai dreams of recording them herself one day. “The most enjoyable task would not be recording it, but rather the process beforehand, preparing all the pieces,” she says.

Violinist Ashley Tsai is a recent graduate of the Colburn School in Los Angeles.
‘The main thing is not to lose your identity and to continue working,’ says Ashley Tsai, quoting David Oistrakh. (Joshua Monesson)

Antian Jiang, pianist

Age: 16
From: Toronto

“This young lady’s elevator goes not only all the way to the top, but it bursts through the roof,” declares Michael Esch, Antian Jiang’s piano teacher. “She’s a genius across the whole spectrum of subjects.” He’s referring to Jiang’s accomplishments in both piano performance and the field of biology. In July, she represented Canada at the 34th International Biology Olympiad, held in the United Arab Emirates, and obtained a bronze medal. Later this year, she’ll perform at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall as a laureate of the Sound Espressivo Competition. It’ll be her second appearance there. “The first time was when I was just 10 years old, although the details of that experience are a bit hazy,” she admits. “Returning to Carnegie Hall, I’m determined to fully immerse myself in the experience and cherish every moment.” She’ll play “a mesmerizing piece that showcases both technical prowess and musicality”: Liszt’s La Campanella.

“While I used to be known as the ‘piano girl,’ I am now also recognized as the ‘biology girl,'” she notes. To combine her two passions, Jiang created a YouTube channel called BioPiano Groove. “I aim to intertwine my knowledge of biology with my piano performances, exploring unique ways to express the connection between these two disciplines.” 

She loves the “intricate melodies, rich harmonies and innovative use of pianistic techniques” in Ravel’s music, and performed Gaspard de la nuit numerous times in recent months. And Jiang was so taken with Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations that she learned the work in 2020 and performed it for the Kitchener Waterloo Chamber Music Society. “My admiration for Gould goes beyond his musical talent,” she adds. “I made a special visit to his gravesite in Toronto, paying homage to the profound impact he has had on my musical journey.”

Pianist Antian Jiang will make her 2nd appearance at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall in 2023.
‘Run forward together, unafraid and free, no matter how small I may be.’ — Antian Jiang (Sa Liu)

Alex Yang, pianist and violinist

Age: 14
From: Halifax

Alex Yang is racking up achievements so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. This time last year, he won the $5,000 grand prize at the FCMF National Music Festival, after taking first prize in the emerging artist piano category. In May, he won first prize (advanced category) in both piano and strings at the Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers Association scholarship competition. He gave a violin recital for the Halifax Ladies’ Musical Club in June. And most recently, he was in Edmonton, where he won third prize, the prize for best performance of a work by Chopin and the prize for most promising artist in the CFMTA National Piano Competition.

Yang says his role model is Bruce Liu, “for his technical brilliance, his control of dynamics and the originality of his interpretations — it’s that personal flair that I admire.” To follow in Liu’s footsteps, Yang has a tight-knit support system, as he explains: “My piano teacher, Lynn Stodola, who has put me back on track every week; my parents, who nag me to commit to becoming the best I can; as well as my superego (in Freudian terms), which has encouraged me to practise every day and make good choices.”

Offstage, Yang likes to debate (“I’ve won prizes in several provincial competitions and went to national competitions”) and plays badminton, among other sports — “except soccer because I’m terrible at it.” Later this month, he’ll travel to Perugia, Italy, where he’ll be one of 10 pianists taking part in a one-week masterclass with Angela Hewitt. Then, in September, he’s off to Spain, to compete in the Madrid International Piano Competition. We like his chances!

Alex Yang won 3rd prize, the prize for best performance of a work by Chopin and the prize for most promising artist in the 2023 CFMTA National Piano Competition.
‘Don’t stress over the wrong note,’ urges Alex Yang. ‘You knew it was going to come, you prepared for it — and now that it did, just relax and focus on the rest of the performance.’ (Linda Gao)

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